Sunday, 11 June 2017

Cheltenham Festival bridesmaid Shaneshill bids for French Champion Hurdle success

Willie Mullins is hoping for a fifth French Champion Hurdle (2:35) prize with Shaneshill, who has finished a runner-up in three visits to the Cheltenham Festival.

After landing Grade Two success in Auteuil’s Prix La Barka, a key trial, he is set to hold favouritism for the 3m1f race.

"He's been hard to train during the winter, but I think he's going to be a lot easier to train in this summer weather," the County Carlow handler said.

"He promised me an awful lot early on. He was second three times at the Cheltenham Festival.

"Now I think he's a bit stronger and maybe he can go through with the promise he showed me."

The experienced eight-year-old was beaten just over a length in the Champion Bumper, before reversing the placings with Silver Concorde to gain his only ever top level success at Punchestown.

He was well beaten by the legendary Douvan in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the following year, still finishing one place ahead of 2017 Gold Cup winner Sizing John.

In 2016 he went closer than ever when narrowly beaten by Blaklion in the World Hurdle, he failed to finish in this year’s renewal of the Stayer’s Hurdle.

Ptit Zig was an encouraging winner of the Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in 2015 

Paul Nicholls hopes to reclaim the prize with Ptit Zig, who hasn’t tasted victory since his surprise success in the Grade One contest a year ago.

The eight-year-old missed out on the Festival, and could only finish sixth in the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree.

He did finish the season with an improved effort in Sandown’s Select Hurdle, where he was beaten by L’Ami Serge, who faces him once again.

Nicky Henderson’s raider has been a revelation since almost gaining Cheltenham glory in the County Hurdle.

The seven-year-old was defeated on the line by Arctic Fire, before landing Sandown’s grade two contest. He was beaten by Shaneshill on his last start, but not even a length separated the pair.

One Track Mind was a Grade One winner over hurdles last season

Warren Greatrex is represented by One Track Mind who won the Punchestown Stayers Hurdle last season, but has disappointed over fences.

Blue Dragon is the strongest chance for the French, the six-year-old enjoyed a comfortable Grade Two success at this track in April. 

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